Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Book Review: Dongri To Dubai: Six Decades of The Mumbai Mafia by S Hussain Zaidi


Book review - Dongri to Dubai
Source: Google Images
Book Details. . .

·         Title: Dongri To Dubai: Six Decades of The Mumbai Mafia
·         Author: S Hussain Zaidi
·         Genre: Crime Thriller / Non Fiction
·         Publisher: Roli Books (2012)
·         Pages: 408 Pages
·         Rating: 3.75/5

Behind The Book. . .

Dongri to Dubai is the first ever attempt to chronicle the history of the Mumbai mafia. It is the story of notorious gangsters like Haji Mastan, Karim Lala, Varadarajan Mudaliar, Chhota Rajan, Abu Salem, but above all, it is the story of a young man who went astray despite having a father in the police force. Dawood Ibrahim was initiated into crime as a pawn in the hands of the Mumbai police and went on to wipe out the competition and eventually became the Mumbai police’s own nemesis.

The narrative encompasses several milestones in the history of crime in India, from the rise of the Pathans, formation of the Dawood gang, the first ever supari, mafia’s nefarious role in Bollywood, Dawood’s move to Karachi, and Pakistan’s subsequent alleged role in sheltering one of the most wanted persons in the world.

This story is primarily about how a boy from Dongri became a don in Dubai, and captures his bravado, focus, ambition, and lust for power in a gripping narrative. The meticulously researched book provides an in-depth and comprehensive account of the mafia’s games of supremacy and internecine warfare.

Book Synopsis. . .

Ever since the beginning, the Mafiadom and Mumbai have become synonymous to each other. The dark shadow of crime and criminals has never really left the city. Though the beacon has changed the hands time & again, the fire remained burning and along-with burnt the city and its dwellers. While the erstwhile gangsters did follow some rules and ethics even amidst the non-ethical of the crimes, the next generation of gang lords comprising Dawood, Abu Salem surpassed all boundaries.

Dongri to Dubai chronicles the history of Mumbai mafia tracing its emergence from the early 1950s when many small gangs like Allahabadi gang, Jhonny gang struggled to establish their supremacy before finally vanishing in the fire of inter – intra rivalry to 1990s when the Mumbai mafia evolved to D-Company with Dawood as its supreme.

The early period of Mumbai mafia was marred by small time gangster groups emerging and vanishing in the by-lanes of the city. However, it was with the emergence of Haji Mastan in late 50s / early 60s, the Mumbai mafia actually saw its upsurge. Mastan had a humble beginning as a son of a cycle mechanic before rising to the fame riding on the waves of the ocean doing illegal import of good. His honesty, integrity and ethical means gave him repute taking him at the pinnacle of Mumbai mafiadom. As he expanded his footprints in the city, he realized that in addition to mind and money power he also needed muscle power to exercise full control over the city. This, perhaps, led him to join hands with two local goons – Varadarajan and Karim Lala; while Haji Mastan provided brains and these two provided brawns.

When Haji Mastan was establishing his reins on the waters of the Mumbai, somewhere else in the city a child was born to Ibrahim Kaskar, who was named as Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar. Ibrahim Kaskar was an honest, god-fearing head constable in Mumbai Police and commended a lot of respect amidst both police and goons owing to his integrity.

Dawood started off his childhood well in a good school and in a congenial environment before finally diverging to his rough means, slowly and steadily climbing ladder to mafiadom. His petty crimes and acts gave way to an unknowing bank robbery which resulted in the birth of the man that would one day become Dawood Ibrahim, the Don. The future course of events saw him fostered by Mumbai police as a weapon to uproot and eradicate the gang of Pathans who were creating havoc in the city. While the Mumbai police thought that they are using Dawood to accomplish their purpose of freeing the city from Pathans, the later heedfully used them to clear his arch rivals and the struggle that followed saw the emergence of what the world would say – a stronger Dawood. The Mumbai police nurtured one outlaw to tackle many others which were present in the city thinking that it would be easier to tackle one rather dealing with the bunch of them – the time only proved, how dubious and faulty their perception was.

As the Mumbai underworld evolved, the gang wars and the bloodshed became more and more prominent between the Dawood and Pathan gang. While Haji Mastan temporarily called truce between both, the subsequent killing of Dawood’s elder brother by Pathans opened a new chapter of blood and gore, revenge and broad light killing. The phase that arrived dethroned all rules, ethics or humanity. Dawood not only turned vengeful but also intensely motivated and driven, propelling him out of the small league of Mumbai pool and pushing him into a big sea of ruthless crime. And when post charges against grew in number, the boy from Dongri left Mumbai and escaped to Dubai, though his fiefdom continued to remain in the city.

Despite being forced to exit the city forever, Dawood continued to control the strings of Mumbai mafia while sitting in Dubai. Whosoever went against him or tried to overshadow him on the pretext of him not present in the city, was either staged or killed. The increasing influence of Dawood and his D-Company in crime and terrorism led him notoriously climb up the ladder of most wanted criminals. Consequently, the Indian government constantly pushed for his extradition to India at various international forums. The notorious and catastrophic Mumbai bomb blasts nailed him badly as (perhaps) he didn’t expected such a grave magnitude, intensity and impact of the blast, post which he shifted his base to Karachi in Pakistan. Simultaneously, the underworld witnessed the rise of many new names as well like Chota Rajan, Chota Shakeel and Abu Salem, much to the ire of Mumbai Police.

Amidst the rising crime and criminals, the criticism of Mumbai Police stood at its pinnacle as all its attempts to capture criminals or abort their operations were thrashed and foiled. However, with the killing of Gulshan Kumar, the Mumbai Police rejuvenated its strategy and assailed the mafia world with renewed rigor and zeal – their ‘bullet for bullet’ and ‘life for life’ plan is said to have freed the city from most of the mafia and goons.

The book also explores the Bollywood connections of the underworld and also unexecuted attempt of Indian agencies to nab Dawood at his daughter reception with Javed Mianadad in Dubai, which the whole world kept an eye on.

How did Haji Mastan’s integrity and honesty help him to become the first king of Mumbai mafia? How did Dawood turned towards mafia despite having affluent upbringing in the beginning and having an honest, god fearing father? How did the Mumbai police pawn Dawood eventually became its nemesis making them dance to his tunes? How did the topography of Mumbai mafia changed with the emergence of D-Company and its supreme, Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar? How did Dawood manage to exercise full control over the Mumbai despite being away therefrom? What was his role in Mumbai blasts?

Grab a copy of the book to unearth the answers to above and also to know complete details of the rise and falls of the underworld in Mumbai & also the transformation of a local Dongri goon to the world’s most wanted criminal – Dawood Ibrahim.

My Thoughts. . .

What could be more paradoxical than the fact that the Mumbai, our own city of dreams has become synonymous with the terms like mafia, crime and criminals. Perhaps, that’s what you call the real world which is far from being a fantasy – you have roses & you have thorns, you have angels & you have devils, you have dreams & you have nightmares. While the city has been the safe haven for those innumerable dreams which did manage to see the dawn of the reality, it has also been notoriously subjected to be the home for the underworld which became the country’s most dreaded mafia.

I have never been an avid reader of the crime genre, still there always remain a desire to know and read about the advent & rise of the underworld fiefdom in India. Though much has been written and said about the rise and fall of gangs and goons in Mumbai, the information remains all scattered across the print and electronic media. Unfortunately, a single book covering the genesis of the underworld in a chronological manner was long awaited. That’s where ‘Dongri to Dubai’ fits the bill.

The author (being a crime reporter himself for the last twenty years) has skilfully and meticulously penned down his research, findings and knowledge about the evolution of the gangs and mafias in Mumbai. It starts with the minor incidents of pick-pocketing and petty gang wars amidst small time self-proclaimed gangs when crime itself was at its infancy & progresses through the rise of organized crime syndicates taking the crime and criminals at the next level. To say, that the book completely shocks you and bowls you over with a revelation would be an overstatement as, thanks to Bollywood and media, the people do have tits and bits of knowledge of the crime facts and activities. But it does chronologically brick by brick let the reader understand how once discrete and all scattered crime transformed into organized corporate like syndicate – the journey that spanned across six decades since independence.

The subject matter of the book is engaging and thus even though being a non-fiction it manages to hold onto reader’s attention in most of the places. The result is a page turning piece of non-fiction which has more thrills and plot twists than the fiction itself. The author’s research and command over the subject matter is visible in the wide span of period and ganglords he covers and also in detailed account of the operations, penetrations and anecdotes of various lingos and incidents in underworld. Per se, it covers the biography of many gangsters who reigned Mumbai in one form or the other viz. Haji Mastan, Karim Lala, Varadarajan Mudaliar, Chhota Rajan, Chota Shakeel, Abu Salem and last but not the least – Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar.

However, having said so, at some places the narration and subject matter appear repetitive and the language also loses a bit sounding more like a newspaper report (though that’s understandable as the book is a non-fictional account and not a fiction in itself & the author is also a crime reporter and not a story teller). Some amount of editing would have done more wonders to the book. Further, I personally felt that though the book starts of well right from 1950s and gradually progresses further step by step, the moment Dawood and his D-Company comes into prominence all other characters take a back seat. For instance, not much detail has been given about the outer years of Haji Mastan or Karim Lala and many other notable mafia dons. As the narration progresses, it tends to be more and more Dawood centric and his D-Company. At other places, even the narration about Dawood seem to be glorified giving him a larger than the life imagery. The author also appear to be convinced that world’s most wanted criminal Dawood didn’t have any direct role in the catastrophic Mumbai blasts and he wasn’t aware about the ultimate usage of logistical support provided by him to ISI – something which didn’t sound too logical given the sharp and acute bent of mind the don is said to possess. It would also have been great had further insight was given about Dawood’s father in his outer years as during the course of reading we come to know that he was a pious and honest policeman who was completely against the means and profession of his sons.

The cover page of the book has a traditional photograph of Dawood with sun glasses and glimpses of the Mumbai city visible through the lenses. The book cover also boasts of the endorsement by actor Anil Kapoor and director Sanjay Gupta (who is said to have based his film ‘Shootout at Wadala’ on this novel). The title of the book is perfect as it conveys the transformation and transgression of a local goon of Dongri in Mumbai to the world’s most wanted criminal in Dubai. The printing, font and word spacing are decent enough to grant reader a comfortable read.

The Final Word. . .

‘Six decades of the Mumbai Mafia’ the book says and delivers all in this scintillating thriller of over four hundred pages. It offers the bang for the buck and surely commands a read especially for those who are interested in knowing the story behind the advent and rise of mafiadom in Mumbai and also about the man himself – Dawood Ibrahim.

Excruciatingly researched and meticulously penned, it explores the atrocities which the city of dreams suffered and attempts to unravel the realms of mafia world constructing a brick by brick transformation of underworld from a discrete all scattered disjointed crime to a well-organized corporate like crime syndicate – the journey that spanned across six decades since independence.

Rating: 3.75/5

Five Favorite Quotes. . .

1.      As Napoleon Hill said, necessity may be the mother of invention but it is also the father of crime.

2.      Offence is the best form of defense and the best way to take revenge is to hit where it hurts most.

3.      Man's most dangerous enemy is the one he was once closest to.

4.    But all the wealth in the world cannot guarantee you a good night’s sleep. Dawood is an insomniac; he drags himself home only in the wee hours of the day if he has not brought the party home already. He sleeps during the day and works in the evening.

5.   The Rampuri gang—before beating a hasty retreat from the Mumbai crime scene—left behind a relic: a long foldable knife with sharp edges on one side. The knife could be folded and hidden in the trouser pockets and it was meant to be thrust in the rib cage to savagely tear apart the innards of the stomach from one end to another. This lethal knife became known as ‘Rampuri Chaaku’. And to date, the Rampuri Chaaku is the first weapon of the neophyte gangster in Mumbai

About the Author. . .

S. Hussain Zaidi is an Indian crime reporter and author. He has written books like Mafia Queens Of Mumbai: Stories Of Women From The Ganglands and Black Friday: The True Story Of The Bombay Bomb Blasts and Headley And I.

Zaidi was born to a tailor, and grew up in the Mumbai suburb of Vikhroli. He studied commerce from Chetna College, and later went on to work for newspapers like the Indian Express, Asian Age, Mid-day, and Mumbai Mirror. He has been working as a journalist and covering the Mumbai mafia for twenty years. Zaidi is an associate producer for an HBO movie which is based on the 26/11 terrorist attacks. This author also conducted the last ever published interview of Dawood Ibrahim. He is married to crime reporter Velly Thevar, and they live in Mumbai.

Where to grab a copy. . .

Please click here to buy the book from Flipkart

Please click here to buy the book from Amazon

~ Shubh Life . . . OM Sai Ram 

© 2015 Manish Purohit (Reserved)

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